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Monday Morning Ready02.14.2019
Jumpstart Your Week!

Only a sliver of what goes on at the White House is ever seen by the public, usually through a very manicured lens. But a team of librarians at the White House Historical Association, which aims to preserve and provide access to White House history, has spent the past two years working to digitize about 25,000 behind-the-scenes photographs...... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

What would you most like to take pictures of if you were a White House photographer? Why?

Grade 5-6

What do you think people can learn from studying behind-the-scenes photographs taken at the White House?

Grade 7-8

In the article, the writer says the public usually sees what goes on at the White House "through a very manicured lens." What does this mean? Do you think it's right that the public usually only gets to see what happens at the White House in this way? Why or why not?

Grade 9-10

According to the article, librarians and historians aren't only identifying people in behind-the-scenes photographs taken at the White House. They're also figuring out how the images fit into the timeline of historical events. Why is this important?

LESSON PLAN
Explore the Story of a Presidency

PROCESS:

  1. In groups, pairs or on their own, have students pick one U.S. president.
  2. Instruct students to conduct research to learn all about that president and his time in office. Challenge them to identify overall themes, defining moments and key players that influenced the president's tenure.
  3. Encourage students to find photographs that they think define the president's time in office. Then have them write a brief essay explaining how the photos they selected tell the story of this presidency.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their essays with the class. Challenge them to identify specific reasons why they chose each photo and how the photos work together to tell the story of this presidency.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Instruct groups to pick a president, identify the most important events that took place during his presidency and find photos to illustrate each event.
Grades 5-6:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Instruct groups to pick a president and identify the most important events that took place during his presidency. Tell students to find photos that illustrate those events and the key players involved. Challenge them to identify important people, places and things in the photographs.
Grades 7-8:
Have students complete the activity in pairs. Instruct partners to pick a president, summarize the overall theme of his presidency and identify defining moments that reinforced that theme. Encourage students to find photos of important people, places and things related to those moments. Challenge them to incorporate detailed information about each photo into their essays. If two or more pairs selected the same president to investigate, compare and contrast the results.
Grades 9-10:
Have each student select a president to study and identify a personal or professional theme that defined his presidency. Encourage students to find photographs of defining moments that reinforced that theme. Challenge them to identify important people, places and things in each photo. If two or more students investigated the same president, have them share their essays one after the other. Have students compare and contrast the results to develop a broader understanding of this president and his time in office.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
George Washington: A National Treasure
This teacher’s resource guide from the National Portrait Gallery uses Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington to introduce students to events that shaped Washington’s life. It provides lesson plans that include suggested objectives, procedures, related standards in historical thinking and worksheets.

Mr. President: Profiles of Our Nation’s Leaders
This website, courtesy of the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, provides brief biographies, vital stats and National Portrait Gallery paintings of all presidents, from George Washington to Donald Trump.

Abraham Lincoln: The Face of a War
In lessons in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, students study the Civil War through portraits of President Abraham Lincoln. Students will analyze this time through the famous “cracked-plate” photograph of Lincoln, two plaster “life masks,” and an eyewitness drawing of Lincoln’s arrival in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

Winning the Vote: How Americans Elect Their President
This 1996 issue of From Art to Zoo, courtesy of the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, includes activities to introduce students to the office of the presidency and the process of electing the president. It includes lessons on political campaigns, political parties and the Electoral College.

One life: Ronald Reagan
This online exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery features photographs and artwork that illustrate steps in a long life’s journey: from sportscaster to movie star to governor to president; from union leader to corporate spokesman; from FDR liberal to Goldwater conservative; from fierce cold warrior to disarmament proponent.

Photographing History: Fred J. Maroon and the Nixon Years, 1970-1974
This National Museum of American History online exhibit features the photographs of photojournalist Fred Maroon, who was granted unusual access to the Nixon White House to document the 1970 reelection campaign as well as major events of the Watergate controversy. It includes a timeline of events from 1968-1974.

Presidents in Waiting
This National Portrait Gallery online exhibition takes a multimedia look at the fourteen vice presidents who went on to become president, whether by happenstance or by election in their own right. The site includes an interactive timeline and video interviews with former veeps Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney.

This Interactive Maps Out the Lives of Former Presidents
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn how ex-commanders-in-chief, from Washington to Obama, bided their time after leaving office.
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